TECHNOLOGICAL Institute of the Philippines and Marinerong Pilipino put their history aside when the 2019 PBA D-League Foundation Cup semifinals begin on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Partners in the 2018 Foundation Cup that led to a semis trip, the Engineers and the Skippers are now foes as they are set to slug it out in Game One of the best-of-three affair at 3:30 p.m.
"Poetic. Marinero-TIP last conference," said TIP head coach Potit De Vera. "With that partnership, we made it all the way to the playoffs. It's going to be interesting. It's going to be fun."
The Engineers have been nothing short of impressive this conference, clinching the two-seed in Group B with their 5-1 card before maximizing their win-once edge over Black Mamba in the quarterfinals.
But they will be in for a tough challenge as they face the Skippers, Group A's top dogs who are unbeaten in seven straight games behind the leadership of Eloy Poligrates.
The former PBA player has been on a tear with averages of 23.8 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds, making him the frontrunner for the Conference MVP honors.
De Vera, though, is undaunted.
"We are here to compete," he said. "It's going to be one great player against five TIP players. Isa lang naman ang bola so we have to take care of one guy against five guys. That's how we look at it. They're gonna play against a TIP team, not a TIP player. It doesn't matter kung sino yung mga who's who nila ngayon sa lineup, we're gonna compete."
Coach Yong Garcia, however, isn't fazed with history whatsoever, as his only concern is correcting Marinerong Pilipino's flaws as it plans to make it all the way to the big dance for the first time in franchise history.
"Ang focus namin is more on correction sa mga mali namin especially on defense," he said. "Hopefully sa semifinals trabahuhin ulit ng mga players para makarating kami sa finals."
Meanwhile, BRT Sumisip Basilan-St. Clare renews its rivalry against Centro Escolar University in Game One of their own best-of-three series at 1:30 p.m.
The Saints made it seven straight wins with a 180-117 drubbing of Hyperwash on Monday.
In the process, they broke a slew of D-League records in that win including the highest points tallied in a game, but coach Stevenson Tiu is concerned with his side not being tested enough.
"Happy na pumasok kami sa semis but I'm concerned dahil hindi kami na-push to the limit," said Tiu, whose team has won by an average of 36.57 points through the course of the second conference. "I don't think we can do it sa semis."
What the veteran mentor can bank on is the hunger his wards have, with team's nucleus made up of the St. Clare squad that bowed to CEU in last conference's semis.
"Yun ang pinaguusapan namin. Para dun sa mga bata yun ang gusto nila na makabawi sa CEU," said Tiu.
Meanwhile, Scorpions coach Derrick Pumaren isn't resting on his laurels as he knows that this will be a different Saints team from the one they vanquished the last time out.
BRT Sumisip-St. Clare added veterans Alfred Batiño and Hesed Gabo for its title bid, and for Pumaren, those new faces further puts his young CEU team at a disadvantage.
"It's not the same St. Clare with the additions. Medyo disadvantage dahil my players are still young," said Pumaren, who will rely on Malick Diouf and Rich Guinitaran. "But we can't be intimidated."